PR folks: Would you represent Blagojevich?

I was asked a question this morning: “Would you represent Rod Blagojevich?” This brings up a very interesting point for PR people of all kinds. The troubled Illinois Governor is in the news again, this time because he’s skipping out on his state impeachment proceedings, which begin today. The stated reason for his absence? He’s upset that the rules of the state government prevent him from calling any witnesses to his defense. He’s annoyed by this detail, and is taking his case to the Court of Public Opinion: in this case Larry King Live, and other national broadcast outlets in New York.

As for the legality of anything Blagojevich may or may not have done, the courts and the senate will determine. In the Court of Public Opinion, the governor has decided that his only option remaining is self-defense. If you’ve been watching the news in the last three months, chances are that you have some opinion about his guilt or innocence. His appearance on Larry King Live tonight will either reinforce those opinions, or cause people to re-evaluate.

Regardless, the governor, guilty or innocent, is to be commended for his decision to talk to the American public about his side of the story. If he had acted sooner, he might not be in such a deficit of public approval. People expect a quick response these days, because they know they can get one. When a response is slow, people tend to presume guilt or assume the subject is being evasive.

Now back to the initial question: “Would you represent him?”

I believe that everyone is entitled to a competent defense. Very much like defense attorneys represent accused criminals every day, PR people can find themselves in the position to represent individuals or companies that have been accused of doing bad things.

If you were accused of a crime (regardless of your guilt or innocence), would you not want an attorney to represent you in the Court of Law? Someone with deep knowledge of the workings of the legal system who could present a case on your behalf?

Why should it be any different with the Court of Public Opinion?

What would you do?

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3 thoughts on “PR folks: Would you represent Blagojevich?

  1. Moobs says:

    Well as a lawyer I’ll represent pretty much any f**ker who walks through my door. We’ve turned that into a principle.

  2. Gerald says:

    No I wouldn’t. And not because it is quite clearly a lost cause. He is proving to be his own worst enemy. There was a suggestion on the news that his defense attorney left because his client wouldn’t listen to him. The Governor has displayed not only appalling judgment and character in his actions that have caused this problem, but even more appalling judgment and character in his response to the accusations. Blaming his problems on his activity on behalf of Illinois families is one glaring example. If he was a person of integrity, sincerely sorry for the mistakes he has made, willing to take the punishment he deserves, and thinking first of others he has hurt, I’d be happy to take it on. But, if he was that kind of person, he wouldn’t have done these crazy things in the first place.

  3. Gail Kent says:

    Everyone deserves good representation in a court of law, thus the reason why the Constitution provides for court-appointed lawyers if one cannot be afforded (the quality is debatable, but at least it is guaranteed). There is no parallel guarantee for representation in the court of public opinion, nor should there be, and arguing that there should be simply confirms the popular opinion the PR practitioners are “flaks” that will say or do anything for the right money. Taking on an obviously tainted client not only taints the practitioner, but also contributes to the negative image of public relations as a profession. We, as practitioners, must protect our credibility by refusing to accept slimy clients. How else will our work – and our clients – gain respect when it is deserved?

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